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American Comics is one of the most popular companies worldwide in the comic book market. It is the publishing arm of American Entertainment, Ltd., which is based out of Canberra, ANZC, and is best known for material publishing the full roster of characters formerly published by U.S.-based companies DC and Marvel, most notably Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Justice League of America and the Incredible Hulk.
AC titles are sold throughout the ANZC; Oceania; southeast Asia; south America; and Mexico, with plans to expand sales into Europe, New Britain, North America and the Caribbean. Some characters are also published separately by South American companies, with story lines often having nothing to do with their American Comics counterparts.
Many of the AC characters' adventures take place on Earths where Doomsday never took place; a few, such as Hulk 1999 and Kamandi, take place on an "Earth-Prime" where Doomsday, and subsequent real-life events, occur.
"Crossovers" have occurred with characters from the other major ANZC-based comic book company, Southern Cross, and with Marvelo Comics in Mexico.
The best-selling titles, as of November 2009, are:
- The Uncanny X-Men
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Justice League
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- The New Titans
- Iron Man
American businessman Johnathan William "Jack" Kemper resigned from the Commission on Preserving American Culture (with President Bush's blessing) in early 1994 and began applying for copyrights to every comic book character ever published by DC or Marvel - some 3,796 of them. In a unanimous decision, the Australian high court ruled that the copyrights were free to whomever first claimed them, and that the American Heritage Act passed into law allowed American citizens precedence over Australian nationals in regards to said copyrights. In short, Kemper gained the copyrights. He took them and, with investment from Australians and American citizens, started American Entertainment Ltd. on April 3, 1994.
Kemper immediately announced that the first issues published by American Comics would be released in October 1994. He hired several writers and artists - some of which were American expats - and assigned them to five titles: Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man. Media coverage was impressive, particularly with impressions of the American heroes showing up in Australian, New Zealander and Papua New Guinean newspaper and magazine advertising months ahead of the planned fall release.
The first issue of Superman, actually numbered 387 (which would have been the next issue of the DC series released if Doomsday had not occured), went out to supermarkets, bookstores and newspaper stands across Australia and New Zealand on October 4, and in Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa and Singapore on October 18. Over two million copies were sold. Copies of Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman (numbered after what their respective American books would have numbered in October 1983) sold upwards to 1,500,000 copies apiece.
Fantastic Four was released in January 1995, with other titles such as Adventure Comics; Uncanny X-Men; the Flash; Justice League; the Avengers; Aquaman; and New Teen Titans released later in 1995. After the American Provisional Administration was formally dissolved, Kemper ordered all titles to give tribute to American history and culture for the company's one-year publishing anniversary in October 1995.
Each title was written for a world that never experienced Doomsday, as if each title picked up where its DC/Marvel predecessor left off. Gradually, DC and Marvel characters began to intermingle; in 1998, a six-issue "Crisis" was published, where the DC and Marvel Earths merged into one continuity, known as "Earth-1". It also referred to a multiverse, including an Earth where Doomsday indeed took place, titled "Earth-Prime". The series sold well, and re-established the multiverse as part of American Comics lore.
American Comics is credited as being the creation of Johnathan William "Jack" Kemper, a businessman from San DIego who was in Brisbane, Australia on business when Doomsday hit. Kemper not only was a businessman, but also reportedly had an extensive collection of popular culture in his La Jolla-based home, ranging from Coca-Cola paraphernalia to copies of 1940s Batman, Captain Marvel and Action Comics magazines.
Kemper, a bachelor, nevertheless lost family, friends and business associates in the devastation of southern California. After a period of mourning, he went to work for a Brisbane-based investment company. Kemper decided to live as modestly as possible while making investments in Australian and New Zealand companies and real estate. By 1989 Kemper's net worth, based on his pre-Doomsday investments and holdings in Australia and his post-investment income and investments, was said to be roughly $9 million in Australian dollars.
When the American Provisional Administration was established in Canberra, Kemper sought out President George H.W. Bush and offered his services. Kemper served as an unofficial advisor for six years; after publishing his autobiography in 1990 and embarking on a subsequent book and speaking tour in 1991, he offered again to formally join the Bush administration. Bush instead asked Kemper to head up a commission tasked with preserving the best of American culture.
Several Americans, Australians and New Zealanders went about various tasks aimed at preserving every type of American culture from soft drinks to rock music to fiction. Kemper found himself wandering through an Adelaide bookstore in 1993 and noted the absence of comics. DC, Marvel and other American publishers had obviously ceased to exist ten years earlier, and the Australian domestic market had never taken off. He quietly began meeting with his legal contacts in regards to gaining the copyright for the DC and Marvel characters in Australia,
Sensing a business opportunity, Kemper resigned from his government commission and formed American Entertainment Ltd., as majority owner.
Kemper for the most part stayed out of the public eye and allowed his writers and artists large creative freedom, with one exception - the character of Captain America was to reflect a "pro-America" viewpoint. Controversy over the writer's affiliation with the Committee to Restore the United States of America and belief that President Bush was a "sellout" led to changes in the character, most notably moving the character's alter ego, Steve Rogers, to a world where Doomsday never happened, while the "CRUSA Cap" would have his adventures in an Earth-Prime based on the one the comics were published in.
Kemper retained majority ownership of AC until 2005, when he sold his majority stock to a group of investors that included Graham Keefe, the writer of Superman from 1994-1997 and editor-in-chief of American Comics from 2000-2004.
Forty-six titles are currently published either on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis by American Comics. They are currently divided by AC editors into two categories:
Classic Universe (set in the multiverse, with most adventures set on the "Earth-1" universe):
- Action Comics
- AC Comics Presents
- AC Team-Up
- Amazing Spider-Man
- The Avengers
- Black Lightning
- Brave and the Bold
- Captain Marvel
- The Defenders
- Detective Comics
- Doctor Strange
- Fantastic Four
- The Flash
- Green Lantern Corps
- Iron Man
- Justice League of America
- Justice League International
- Justice Society Infinity
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- The Titans
- Uncanny X-Men
- What If?
- Wonder Woman
- World's Finest
Prime Universe (the settings are intended to resemble the real-world post-Doomsday universe):
- Adam Strange: the Earth-born hero of the Alpha Centauri planet of Rann who travels between both planets via a teleportation device known as the Zeta Beam.
- Alpha Flight: a group of mutants gathered from across the current and former territory of Canada, sponsored by the Canadian government.
- Atomic Knights
- Black Panther: T'Challa is King of Wakanda, the richest nation on Earth. As king, he has numerous challenges to deal with from within and without - and as the Black Panther, he serves alongside the post-Doomsday incarnation of the Global Guardians.
- The Bushrangers: A military-trained group of "gifted" men and women, based in Australia, who use their powers not only for the public good but also in the service of the ANZC. Led by a former U.S. Army General, the Bushrangers are comparable to the G.I. Joe characters and comics which debuted in the United States in 1982.
- Captain America: Steve Rogers was somewhere in the U.S. on Doomsday where a bomb didn't land. No one (yet) knows his fate, but a long-standing legend has the Last Avenger fighting the good fight across America. Now, a recently resurrected SHIELD will attempt to find out for certain.
- Global Guardians: a group of superheroes from around the globe initially formed by the ANZC, APA and SAC governments, now under the authority of the League of Nations.
- Gotham Knights: The missiles targeted for Gotham City missed the city entirely - no one knows if it was the work of the city's protector, Batman, or blind luck. Nevertheless, the city fell apart, as not even the Batman could keep his beloved city together. Amongst the remains of Gotham, 12 men, women and teens - inspired by long-dead heroes and villains - fight the good fight on behalf of the survivors, against whatever threats come their way.
- Hex: the descendant of Jonah Hex, having survived Doomsday somewhere in the southwest, has adventures across the former United States.
- The Hulk
- Last Son of Krypton (quarterly): Superman was away from Earth when Doomsday hit; his guilt over not being able to save his friends and loved ones led him to flee for the stars.
- The Mutants
- Southern Cross: The ANZC's premier superhero. Southern Cross was intended by the ANZC to be the successor to Superman, both in power and in reputation. His identity is unknown to the public, which matters little because for all intents and purposes he is Southern Cross. Along with trying to emulate the humility Superman was said to have had, Southern Cross also deals with bouts of depression and addiction, owing to the loss of his family on Doomsday and his wife and daughter to a wanna-be villain years later. Southern Cross's other two children are presumed dead - but are they?
Defunct titles featuring characters that AC holds rights to include:
- Adventure Comics
- Doom Patrol
- Metal Men
- New Teen Titans
- Power Man and Iron Fist
- Spectacular Spider-Man
- Teen TItans
The multiverse aspect of DC and Marvel universes was retained in part to allow for a wide variety of stories to be told with the company's characters. One version of each character would be pushed as the core version, but that would not prevent stories of multiple versions from being told, especially if fans took to the variants. The "multiverse" has proven to be quite popular with fans over the years.
Many of the AC titles are set either in "Earth-1" or in "Earth-Prime". This occasionally has led to some confusion among newer readers, though care is taken to distinguish the various realities and versions of characters. Perhaps the best example is Wolverine, who appears in a solo title and in Uncanny X-Men; the former is set on Earth-Prime, the latter on Earth-1. Both are essentially the same character, only in different circumstances and with different histories. Several other AC characters have "Doomsday" and "non-Doomsday" versions. Some, like Superman, Captain America and Batman, have multiple counterparts (such as their older versions on an Earth-2 that also did not suffer Doomsday).
To deal with growing reader confusion as continuity expands as the years go on, a plan to establish separate labels to distinguish the different continuities is in the works.
Many titles have proven to be a hit throughout Oceania and in Mexico and the Caribbean. The titles also sell well in South America, where they compete against versions of Marvel and DC characters (most notably Spider-Man) copyrighted by Brazilian companies in the mid-1980s.